Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Iron Maiden - Powerslave

Today (September 3rd) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Powerslave, the fifth studio album from Iron Maiden. Across the globe, this 1984 release charted at number 21 in Canada, number 15 in Austria, number 10 in Switzerland, number 9 in Germany, number 5 in Sweden, number 4 in Finland and Norway, and number 2 in the UK. Here in the US, it spent thirty-four weeks on the Billboard Album chart and peaked at 21.

Side one opens with “Aces High”, a song about a British Royal Air Force pilot during World War II. As the second single, it went to number 29 in Ireland and number 20 in the UK. It is one of the band’s more popular tracks and was featured in the 2009 video game Madden NFL 10.

“2 Minutes to Midnight”, the first single, went to number 70 in Germany, number 25 on the US Mainstream Rock chart, number 11 in the UK and number 10 in Ireland. The lyrics reference the Doomsday Clock, a symbol used by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. In September of 1953, the clock read that time due to hydrogen bomb testing being done by both the United States and the Soviet Union. The song features two fantastic guitar solos, the first by Dave Murray and the second by Adrian Smith.

The instrumental track “Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra)” is next. It rolls along at a thunder pace, driven by Nicko McBrain’s pounding drums.

“Flash of the Blade” tells the tale of an adventurous boy who grows up to be a killer.

“The Duelists” wraps up the notions of chivalry and fighting for honor in a relentless metal rhythm.

Side two begins with the explosive “Back in the Village”, a story of a soldier who returns home but still suffers from flashbacks of his time at war.

The title track “Powerslave” is next. Its Egyptian themes are reflected in the album’s cover. I like how one of the reoccurring guitar rifts has a sound associated to that region of the world.

The album closes with the epic, nearly fourteen minute long “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. The track is inspired by the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem of the same name; a portion of the song’s lyrics come directly from that 1798 lyrical ballad. The piece is broken into a number of musical movements, including a dramatic spoken word segment complete with creaking ship sounds that serves as the center piece.

Powerslave features some amazing rock compositions, the kind of music I have come to expect as I have sampled Iron Maiden albums over the years. Some of the tracks from this album I am sure I heard back in the mid-80’s thanks to album-oriented rock radio stations and from folks around the campus dorms.

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1 comment:

Kris Shaw said...

This album is a classic, one that I have bought multiple times over the years (original cassette, CD, 1995 Castle 2 CD edition with B-sides bonus disc, and 1998 remaster). 1982-1986 is arguably the high point of mainstream acceptance of Heavy Metal, and albums like this one are the reason why. While Maiden has made some fine albums since this one, this is the last one that is great from start to finish.